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Berlin Distance Recap: Jelimo Goes Sub 1:55 in Berlin
By Bob Ramsak
(c) 2008 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
June 1, 2008

BERLIN – If you thought Pamela Jelimo might have been a one-hit wonder, think again. The Kenyan teenager put on another display at this afternoon’s FDK-ISTAF meeting which showed that she just might become the best 800m runner ever.

In what was apparently just her fifth outing over the distance, Jelimo forged into territory the world hasn’t seen in nearly 11 years with her jaw-dropping 1:54.99 run in front of more than 67,000 spectators at Berlin’s cavernous Olympic Stadium in the AF Golden League series kick-off. Only five women have ever run faster, and now Jelimo, who confirmed after the race that she’s still just 18, has already supplanted legend Maria Mutola as the African record holder.

“This one was a bit more difficult then Hengelo,” she admitted, referring to the 1:55.76 performance at the FBK Games last weekend which put her on the global map. “It was much more tough. But I’m glad that I improved by a second.”

Jelimo, along with Ukraine’s world indoor silver medallist Tetyana Petlyuk, were the only runners in a solid field to follow the pacesetter from the gun, and by the time they reached the half in just over 55 seconds, Jelimo suggested that she became a little impatient with the pacemaking she characterized as slow.

The pace maker crossed 400m in about 54 or 55 seconds,” she said, “which means I crossed in about 55 or 56 seconds. So I had to continue more quickly.”

After her ambitious third 200m briefly put her on world record pace, she slowed dramatically down the homestretch, but still won by four seconds, a margin seemingly unheard of at this level.

“As I was once a sprinter, maintaining speed for 400 metres is simple to me. But now continuing is a little more difficult.”

Jelimo was a late entry into the race –indeed, the lane assignments were revised several times after her entry before the gun finally sounded—but she didn’t so hastily announce that her next race would come at Oslo’s ExxonMobil Bislett Games next Friday where she could continue the chase for a slice of the $1 million Golden League Jackpot. More likely is a return home to Kenya.

“Because I ran in Hengelo I then decided to run in Berlin because I wanted another good race. And I wanted more exposure before going back home and preparing more for the Olympics. Going to the Olympics requires more exposure and experience, so this race makes the Olympics more possible. Now we are preparing for the Olympics, and the qualifications. And this race showed that we can do even better.”

Ukrainian Yuliya Krevsun was second with reigning world champion Janeth Jepkoskei, Jelimo’s training partner, a distant third (1:59.13) in her first outing of the year. The first seven across the line all dipped under two minutes, but in reality seemed to be in a different race.

- Masai outguns T. Bekele in 5000m, solid outing for Choge in 1500m

After his decisive kick from Tariku Bekele in the men’s 5000, Kenyan Moses Masai gave himself a nice 22nd  birthday present. Masai, who chased the faster Bekele brother in the Memorial Van Damme 10,000m last year, reached the line in 12:50.55, a world leader and new ISTAF meet record. The previous record, 12:53.19, was set by Haile Gebrselassie 13 years ago. Tariku Bekele stopped the clock in 12:52.45, a career best, with Ugandan Moses Kipsiro third (12:54.70). 18-year-old Ethiopian Abreham Cherkos was fourth (12:57.56), also under 13 minutes.

Another world lead came in the men’s 1500m. Comfortably gliding away from a small pack of pursuers down the home straight, Augustine Choge made his victory in the metric mile look fairly straightforward and fairly easy. With his 3:31.73 in the bank, he’s now a double world leader after his his season-pacing 7:32.01 in the 3000m from Doha. Daniel Kipchirchir Komen was second in 3:31.91, edging Shedrack Korir (3:31.99) to complete a Kenyan podium sweep. Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco, the previous world leader, was fourth, producing a new career best 3:32.10.

Clutching his left hamstring, Ivan Heshko dropped out about 1000m into the race.

In the men’s 800m, Abraham Chepkirwok outclassed South African Mbulaeni Mulaudzi in a spirited stride-for-stride homestretch battle, reaching the line in 1:44.53, setting a new Ugandan national record. The previous standard, 1:44.55, was set by Julius Achon 12 years ago. Poland’s Pawel Czapiewski, the 2001 world championships bronze medallist, kicked to victory in the B race, clocking 1:45.19.

Sylvia Kibet surprised even herself when she kicked away from Priscah Jepleting (15:06.77) to win a somewhat sluggish women’s 5000m in 15:05.09. “After the pacemaker dropped out the pace slowed down and no one was willing to push it.”

Taking advantage of the slowed pace, American Jen Rhines broke from the crowded pack of 12 and into the lead briefly with a little over a lap to go, and eventually finished fifth in 15:09.40.

Elsewhere, Lashawn Merritt produced a major upset after his dramatic homestretch victory over Jeremy Wariner in the 400m, and Croatia’s world high jump champion Blanka Vlasic won her event with a 2.03m leap, to collect her 25th consecutive victory, currently the longest in the sport.

The six-meet AF Golden League series continues in Oslo on Friday.

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